Cultural knowledge is an integral part of one’s personality and an essential element of one’ cultural identity. Although remembering the significance and meaning of traditions and the related principles is important, culture fusion has gained increasingly more influence in the 21st century. The specified phenomenon is a particularly common topic for discussion for people and communities who have faced the need to experience immigration and have been planted into a completely alien cultural setting (Ting-Toomey & Dorjee, 2018). Exploring the notion of intercultural adaptation, one will define the weight of cultural fusion, as well as the opportunities and threats that it carries for the national identity as a notion.
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Current Cultural Context: Exploring Change
Characteristics of Culture
In the modern environment that highly encourages diversity and globalization, yet also invites the celebration of cultural differences, one may see culture as the set of beliefs that create a sense of belonging to a certain ethnic, national, or cultural group. Therefore, to some degree, common characteristics of different cultures can be located to define the essence of culture in a general sense.
The current characteristics of my workplace environment are rather diverse for me to experience any negative feelings regarding my identity and the effects that the dominant culture has on it. Being a Chinese person and living in the Canadian setting, I have to admit that the latter is especially welcoming for people of any cultural background (Nair-Venugopal, 2017). After integrating into the target environment, I realized that Canadians were eager to celebrate the cultural specifics that made others different from them and their culture.
As a Chinese person, I have several cultural beliefs and perspectives that are quite different from the traditional Canadian values. For example, there is a strong sense of tradition in my culture since it is centuries old and is actively supported in my native community. Although the Canadian setting does not provide immediate resources for me to sustain numerous traditions associated with the aspects of my daily life, I find it very easy to locate them and, thus accommodate my culture-specific needs quite successfully.
At the same time, I feel that the welcoming environment of the Canadian society encourages me to accept some of the local traditions and values as well, the idea of shared cultural knowledge and openness to new experiences being the key ones. My cultural perspectives, which also include humility and tendency to uphold traditional values, often encourage me to evaluate the effects that accepting new ideas and beliefs will have on me. Therefore, to some extent, my cultural beliefs restrict the process of intercultural accommodation. The observed phenomenon begs the question of whether the promotion of cross-cultural communication and the following cultural adaptation performed through the multicultural dialogue may lead to the erasure of one’s identity. Indeed, seeing how the latter is tied to the cultural belief and traditions, there is a threat of losing the uniqueness of one’s culture during the process of sharing experiences (Neuliep, 2017). Nonetheless, it seems that the knowledge gained in the process is likely to extend one’s cultural identity instead of erasing it. Overall, my current perspective on cultural characteristics and identity allows me to communicate with people in my new environment successfully.
Intercultural Communication in a Globalized World
In order to understand the impact of cross-cultural communication, one has to embrace key facets of one’s life. In his theory of cultural dimensions, Hofstede distinguished five dimensions in which cultural differences manifested themselves during cross-cultural communication. These dimensions included four essential concepts, yet were, later on, expanded to incorporate Restraint vs. Indulgence and Short-term vs. Long-term Orientation (Liu, Volcic, & Gallois, 2010). By considering the effects that a multicultural dialogue has on people’s perception of the specified cultural constructs, one can locate the communication strategies that should be used to minimize the threat of misunderstanding and improve the ostensible outcomes of the cross-cultural dialogue (Liu et al., 2010). Based on my own experience, the notions of Power Distance, Collectivism vs. Individualism, and Femininity vs. Masculinity have played a particularly strong impact on my integration into the cultural environment of the Canadian society.
For example, the notion of collectivism often restricted me from having new experiences in the Canadian setting due to the perceived fear of the social disapproval. Thus, at first, I had difficulties engaging in the activities that were new and challenging to me. However, another aspect of cultural differences as they were viewed through the specified dimension allowed me to build a strong team at college, thus advancing in my research significantly. Therefore, by considering how cultural differences can be used to benefit my situation and assist me in my studies, I managed to develop the attitude that combined caution and curiosity. As a result, I acquired important knowledge and skills, at the same time considering them through the filter of my cultural identity.
On the global level, the observed phenomenon has also become quite noticeable. However, while in the global setting, the concept of unity has become prevalent as one of the pillars for communication, it has also shifted from the promotion of traditional thinking to the collective acquisition, analysis, and synthesis of knowledge (Liu et al., 2010). As a result, the fear of societal contempt no longer restricts people from exploring new horizons in their cultural experiences. Instead, the idea of unity as the platform for the collective improvement and development in all areas possible, including education, seems to have been perpetuated in the modern global environment (Liu et al., 2010). Therefore, the phenomenon of globalization has entered the environment of most cultures, encouraging people to share their knowledge, skills, opinions, and emotions, creating a unique network.
Since some cultures may be so distanced from each other that there is no connection between their traditions, languages, and other elements, the idea of cross-cultural communication might seem implausible. However, the multicultural dialogue still occurs and is often performed rather successfully, which can be explained with the help of DMIS (Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity) designed by Milton Bennett (Liu et al., 2010). The DMIS framework allows one to acquire cultural sensitivity, which reduces the threat of misunderstanding and a subsequent conflict. Applying DMIS to my experiences, I can assume that I am currently at the Acceptance part of the Ethnorelative stage (Liu et al., 2010). Although I am not fully ready to follow the behaviors that Canadian people display, I understand the rationale behind their choices and I am able to share their emotions. One of the most recent examples of my process of adapting toward the Canadian culture would be the attending a local hockey match and trying to engage myself in the event. Although I could not fully share the emotions of viewers, I felt a part of the community when cheering for the team that my friends supported.
By understanding the phenomenon of intercultural adaptation and studying the mechanism of the cross-cultural dialogue, one can contribute to knowledge sharing and create the platform for a successful cross-cultural dialogue. One might argue that the acceptance of a foreign culture may dilute one’s own cultural identity, yet the specified assumption would be quite erroneous. Although the idea of the multicultural dialogue does involve introducing new ideas into one’s philosophy, it also implies relieving one’s perspective of cultural prejudices and stereotypes. Therefore, intercultural adaptation spurred by the globalization process suggests enriching one’s culture and preventing it from being stalled in its development, which would be a threat in an isolated environment.
Based on my personal experiences as a Chinese person in Canada, the concept of acculturation does not imply immediate and inevitable assimilation. Instead, the process of accepting the existence of other cultures and learning more about them is often hampered by stereotypes, as well as the traditions and beliefs that may be incompatible with the ones belonging to other cultures. Nonetheless, by applying the principles of cultural competence and being eager to participate in the cross-cultural dialogue, one can reach the level of cultural sensitivity that will help them to build a strong rapport with a foreign community. Intercultural adaptation should not be seen as a threat to one’s identity but, instead, be interpreted as an opportunity to gain new insights and communication skills, furthering the globalization process and making the world community stronger.
Liu, S., Volcic, Z., & Gallois, C. (2010). Introducing intercultural communication: Global cultures and contexts. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Nair-Venugopal, S. (2017). The discourse of ethics and equity in intercultural communication. New York, NY: Routledge.
Neuliep, J. W. (2017). Intercultural communication: A contextual approach (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
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Ting-Toomey, S., & Dorjee, T. (2018). Communicating across cultures (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Publications.